Chapter 13

Chapter 13

At this time, there was a serious economic slump in progress, with forecast of worse to come. Hugh’s father had made over their family home, Clent Grove, to Hugh, when he came home from the war as he was going into the Glass Works and would need somewhere to live. It had been let to the Stuart Todds after the Chances went to Malvern before the war, but now they wanted to end the lease and go and live near Oxford. So if we wanted, we could live there. It was a rather large house, with a good garden, forty-five acres of home farm with farm buildings and a beautiful arboretum. Hugh always used to take the Birmingham Post on a Saturday, and on the Saturday he went over to Bromsgrove to arrange about John’s christening, he looked at the advertisements of houses for sale. A house near Bromsgrove, with a farm and farmhouse, looked an attractive property, and we went over to look at it, and liked it very much. It was on the side of a hill with views to the south over to the Malvern Hills, and beyond, to the line of the Welsh hills. So one really had all the “Vale” of Worcestershire before one. Having given a lot of thought to this whole situation, Hugh said to me, “Which is it to be, Clent Grove or Caspidge?” and my answer was “I would not like to be poor in Clent Grove, let us have Caspidge.” And so it was.

Clent Grove was put on the market. Hugh did not express any regrets at parting with his birthplace and his first home. He said that he much preferred Blackmore Park near Malvern, where his parents lived after they moved from Clent Grove and where country-type people were more comfortable to be with than those who lived round Clent – business people who lived to be near their work in all the Black County. Blackmore Park’s beautiful grounds and general atmosphere were also more spacious, and the area had been better for Katharine’s social life.

So we left The Court (which we had only rented), and moved into Caspidge, where we were to live for twenty years. Now chauffeur, Davis had his brother Jim come as gardener and Jim’s wife, May, became cook. Hugh found a cottage in the village Finstall for Davis and his family, for by this time he was married and had three daughters.

After a few months at Caspidge, it transpired that I was expecting yet another baby and Hugh was horrified, not about supporting the children but the fact there were so many. I made a slight attempt to dislodge it, but with no result, and secretly I was very happy about it.

I was, of course, all this time still a member of the Anthroposophical Society, and was reading various of Steiner’s lecture cycles. Over at Selly Oak, a Mrs. Lloyd Wilson had a study group which had been going for some years. She always sent me notices of any special meetings, but it was too difficult for me to get over there from Hagley. Besides which I was very occupied with my babies. But one day I received a notice about rather a special meeting; now that I lived at Caspidge it was an easy run up the Bristol Road to this house, Elmfield, at Selly Oak, just off the main road. So I decided to drive over in the Morris Minor, the car Hugh gave me, and Davis taught me to drive when we moved into Caspidge.

Living with us at that time was Aline, the daughter of my father and his housekeeper Nana, who had to leave my father after the girl was born. He had set Nana up in a flat at Emperor’s Gate. Aline was an extremely pretty girl, dark, and not unlike Rosemary. I don’t know why, but we accepted her without questions or shame. She was also very easy to live with, and I decided to take her along with me to this meeting.

The speaker, Friedrich Geuter, was in charge of an Anthroposophical home for handicapped children in Kent. Since my marriage, I had been entirely cut off from all Anthroposophical contacts and felt starved, inwardly, as a consequence. None of my social friends shared any of my real interests. I was deeply interested in what Mr. Geuter was talking about because it was based on Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. Later, Mrs. Wilson introduced me to him and we had a long conversation. I told him about my family and the obviously-expected next member of it.

Friedrich Geuter had a German father and English mother, which made life difficult for him when he served in the army during in the First World War. His wife, Maria, was half-Austrian. They came in contact with Anthroposophy through a soldier friend, Herbert Hahn, who had met Rudolf Steiner and was deeply impressed by him and the descriptions he gave of the reality of a spiritual world, amongst other things. This was the teaching Fried Geuter was looking for, and as soon as possible after the war he made every effort to meet Rudolf Steiner. Fried became a pupil of Rudolf Steiner, who directed him to join others working in one of the first homes for handicapped children inaugurating a special system. One of Rudolf Steiner’s closest collaborators was a medical doctor Frau Dr. Ita Wegman, and with her he began developing of one of the most important of the Anthroposophical teachings, the medical work. Dr. Wegman was in charge of the homes for handicapped children, and she sent Fried Geuter to help with the newly-founded home in Kent. From here, Mrs. Wilson had invited him to describe the work to her group of friends, many of them Quakers, who were concerned to find a more spiritual explanation of life than could be gained through usual church teaching, particularly of the origin of Christianity. As Fried Geuter was working to put the teaching into practice, they were anxious to hear what he could tell them.

He was about 40 at this time, slender, medium height, with fine dark hair brushed back from his forehead and along his upper lip — a nice contrast against the sallow complexion of his clean-shaven face. Glasses perched on his nose to offset his short-sightedness. Fried was neither handsome nor prepossessing. I don’t recall where he was born or educated. His English mother had taught him the language so he was entirely bilingual. A talented musician, he played the violin, and the piano a little. Being full of imagination and humour, he was a wonderful teacher with children – and very good at feeding the curiosity of grown-ups as well. So began a very important and significant life saga.

Michael Wilson did not take seriously this side of his mother’s life and did not come to the lecture. But afterwards he began to talk to this lecturer, who seemed rather different from those who usually came to speak or attended the meetings. Michael, a professional musician, studied at the Royal College of Music, at that time under Sir Adrian Bout. He found that not only did Fried Geuter know a great deal about music and musicians, but was able to enlarge upon Michael’s own knowledge and experience. Fried also told Michael something of his work and its inspiration from Rudolf Steiner. Michael decided to go straight away to join Fried in his effort.

Fried became increasingly disturbed at the way the owner of the Home was treating the children, which was less and less according to the principles advocated by Rudolf Steiner. So he and Michael decided to leave and found a Home of their own. Michael’s mother was very much in agreement with such a move and was able to buy a suitable house for them in Selly Oak, just across the Bristol Road from Elmfield. Because of Mrs. Wilson’s wide connections in the area and through the members of her group, this initiative was very warm heartedly supported. Shortly, they were asked to take one or two handicapped children. A very experienced Nurse Teacher had joined them from the original home in Switzerland, after which they called this home, Sunfield. So Elmfield remained the place for non-handicapped children while Sunfield specialised in students with special needs.

Fried Geuter continued giving informal lectures in Mrs. Wilson’s group, and amongst these was an artist from a College in Birmingham, Lianne Collot de Herbois, another artist friend Gladys Blyth, and two musicians, Mary and John Kobbe. Mary was a pianist and John a violinist. These all came to join the staff at Sunfield, and as so much of the children’s treatment was based on painting and music, Sunfield was blessed with a most exceptional team of workers.


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